Venues, facilities lead FIBA to pick China (Philippine Star)

TOKYO The Philippines came close to bagging the hosting rights for the FIBA 2019 World Cup but in the end, lost out to China whose size, facilities, resources and infrastructure made the world’s most populous country the safe choice as the FIBA Central Board disclosed its decision after a secret vote at the Prince Park Tower Hotel here last night.

FIBA president Horacio Muratore of Argentina took out China’s name from a large envelope given by his predecessor Yvan Mainini of France on stage in a conference room where hours earlier, both bidders delivered audio-visual presentations to promote their countries. For China, it was just another day at the office, another sporting event to host and the celebration from its delegation that included NBA legend Yao Ming was subdued.Only a week ago, China was awarded the hosting rights to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan said it was the proudest moment of his life to participate in the bid. He was warmly congratulated by FIBA officials and the Chinese delegation for spearheading the bold effort to bring the World Cup to the Philippines where basketball is loved with a passion.

While the consensus was the Philippines had a more impressive audio-visual presentation, FIBA put a lot of weight behind China’s offer of eight existing venues in different cities and the promise of mobilizing a massive market of 1.3 billion people. China’s bid was anchored on the slogan “More Than Ever” and provided an unprecedented platform of eight host cities in Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Dongguan, Suzhou, Nanjing and Foshan.

Even Yao Ming admitted the Philippines outperformed China in the audio-visuals. While the Philippines focused on love of the game, China reminded FIBA that “we have never let you down,” a message that reverberated and smacked of collecting a debt. Whenever FIBA needed a host for the FIBA Asia Championships, China was always available. Next month, Changsha will be the site of the FIBA Asia Championships, the third in the last four editions hosted by China.

The enormity of China’s resources was evident in the audio-visuals which put each host city’s capacity to accommodate guests to 100,000 hotel rooms with five-star amenities. Xu Jicheng, deputy director of the media and communications department of the 2022 Winter Olympics bid committee, said China’s four international airports are accessible by direct flights from 230 countries and high-speed trains travelling 350 kilometers an hour will connect the eight host cities. He said the visitors will be given dedicated buses and cars during the tournament. The Philippines’ lack of infrastructure to match China’s development was a handicap.

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In a statement, Malacaaang commended the Philippine delegation, headed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Tourism chief Ramon Jimenez, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, Sarangani Rep. and boxing icon Manny Pacquiao and Pangilinan, for their “spirited endeavor.”

“We will continue to promote the Philippines as an investment, tourism and events destination,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“At the onset, we knew we had only a 10 percent chance of winning the bid but we wanted to give it our best shot,” said Octagon Asia Pacific president Sean Nicholls who played a major role in steering the direction of the Philippine bid. “We went out there with the goal of trying to beat a giant. China eventually edged us out. It had to be a close vote because the Central Board asked for two delays before deciding.”

The original schedule was the decision would be announced at 5:30 p.m. (Manila time). Then it was delayed to 6 p.m. and finally, to 6:15 p.m.

TV5 Sports head and 5-time PBA Coach of the Year Chot Reyes called it a double overtime win for China.”The easy decision was to give it to China with all its resources and money,” said Reyes. “The fact that FIBA delayed its decision twice meant we made them think and rethink.”

Pangilinan, Reyes, former Gilas skipper Jimmy Alapag and Fil-Am celebrity Lou Diamond Phillips spoke during the audio-visual presentation. Phillips, who flew in from Los Angeles, said losing the bid was nothing to be ashamed of. “We fought a good fight,” he said. “I thought our message rang loud and clear. As I spoke on stage, I looked into the eyes of the Central Board members and I had a good feeling. I think they knew what we were talking about and they felt our love for the game.”

The hard facts and money on the table, however, were the convincing factors. The minimum bid for the hosting rights was 8 Million Euros of the equivalent of P460 Million. It was estimated that China offered at least double the amount. The Philippines attempted to put the bidding war into a different plane because clearly, there was no way David could match Goliath’s resources. Reyes said the country’s undying love for basketball would change the game forever if the Philippines could host the World Cup.

“This is the digital media age and we’re wondering how China will resolve the issue of restrictions,” said an observer. “When the Philippines launched the hashtag #Puso2019, it immediately trended all over the world. How will China match that global reach? The Philippines is the No. 1 social media capital of the world and the FIBA would’ve been the direct beneficiary of that capability to reach out to millions.”

SBP executive director Sonny Barrios said now that the bid has been awarded, the Philippines moves on to tackle another goal to win the coming FIBA Asia Championships for the right to represent Asia at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Freddie Webb, who was on the last Philippine team to play at the Olympics in 1972, attended the presentations. If the Philippines makes it to Rio, the return to Olympic basketball will mean the end of a 44-year wait.